A walk along the route of Lisbon’s Tram 28

Lisbon’s iconic yellow trams are quite the tourist attraction. Tram no. 28 is especially popular as it takes a scenic route through the city’s historic neighbourhoods. We had sat in one during our visit to the city over a decade ago1. This time we were too put off by the crowd of people queuing up for a ride. Historic city centres of many European cities can sometimes begin to feel like theme parks. And a tram line mostly used by tourists feels like a joy ride. Anyway, here we were in Lisbon and staying a short walk from the first stop of tram 28. To assuage our guilt, we decided to just walk its entire route. Like one of those pilgrimages of penance some religions prescribe.

The trams, unlike the ones in Amsterdam, use a single carriage only. Two of them had queued up at a turn before the stop and the drivers were having a friendly chat.

There was a small queue at the bus/tram stop for the tram. We were visiting Lisbon during the Chinese New Year week so this particular street had been decorated with red lanterns.

These were taken on the evening of the second last day of our stay. The wife and I had had quite a full day and were tired. We aborted the walk after a couple of stops.

The next day promised to be warm and sunny. We resumed the walk where we left it. We mostly followed the tram tracks all the way but the wife occasionally consulted Google Maps to:

  • make sure that we were indeed following the right tram’s track after they’d fork

  • take any diversions and side-alleys that were more interesting than what was on offer along the tracks

To our slight dismay, not all trams were entirely yellow. Many now featured advertising, like this Samsung one2. I saw this one coming from far away. A car had been partially parked on the tracks so it was held up for a couple of minutes. The tram driver frantically dinged its bell till the car was removed. A small traffic jam had begun to materialise behind the tram and a small entourage of cars now drove in its wake.

I also noticed, perhaps for the first time, how narrow the tram tracks were.

A side alley (Tv. São Vincent) had a colourful, large mural painted on the compound wall of one of the buildings. There were cars parked in front of it so it was hard to get a decent picture of it3.

Many houses are really close the tram tracks.

I loved how compact and elegant this one looked.

Though I wonder how it must be like to live in one. The trams do make a loud rumbling noise when they pass. It must not be pleasant to have one pass by your doorstep every few minutes. Could you ever learn to tune it out?

We finally did catch a plain yellow tram4 sans any advertising - just as it passed a house painted the same shade of yellow. Are you not entertained?

The path of Tram 28 eventually led us to the Santa Luzia church which, being at an elevation, offers sweeping, panoramic views of Lisbon and the Tagus River. We had spent considerable time here during our last trip and rather than the views I found myself drawn to this tiled fountain.

We were close to the halfway mark. The tracks continued to guide us through narrow, winding streets of Lisbon. The trams kept passing us by.

A building that was being repaired, was covered in white tarp. I marvelled at how they had manoeuvred around the beautiful wrought-iron and glass street lamp to let it protrude.

It had easily been 90 minutes since we had started walking and a short coffee break was in order. We sat down at a local chain near the Church of Loreto (aka the Church of the Italians).

Refreshed, we resumed our walk but it soon dawned on us that we had a flight to catch in the afternoon. There was a good hour left in our walk - perhaps longer at our leisurely pace that borders on languid once you account for the stops for taking pictures. We decided to abort the walk along the tram route and changed course towards the nearest bus stop with a connection to our hotel - but not before taking some more pictures to remember the day by:

  1. Not sure which number we took.↩︎

  2. Oh no, Samsung again. They sure are spending a lot of marketing dollars.↩︎

  3. This Google Street View will give you a good sense of it. There are cars parked in front in the Street View too. And something in the mural triggers Street View’s face detection and so it keeps blurring out parts of it to protect their privacy.↩︎

  4. Except for the logo of the public transport agency Carris that runs them.↩︎

February 25, 2024